I am fused from C5-C7 and have the plates and screws in there as well. That took 2 surgeries and I was in as bad, or worse shape than the original injuries from a car accident. All that happened when pain management was in its infancy, so once the surgeon cut off my pain meds, I was SOL. It took another year of misery to get off me rear end and fix myself. Can't say that any doctor would have recommended what I did, but it was either break myself permanently or fix myself. After 6 weeks with a personal trainer and nearly killing myself lifting weights in the gym, (WAY more than any physical therapist had me doing) the pain was gone and hasn't been back - in over 10 years. I was able to keep up with the weights for another 5 years or so - not because I had to, but because it was fun.
It's a rare surgeon who honestly prepares his patients for the brutal reality of fusion surgery. Most will say, "Recovery is 2 to 3 months." Well, their definition of recovery is a whole lot different that the patient's definition. The docs just mean you can get up and down, go to the bathroom, take a walk and take a shower. That doesn't mean you won't still be in pain. The immediate post-op pain and muscle spasms are nearly uncontrollable. I don't care how many drugs they run through that IV, you're in for days of jaw-breaking pain. You won't be able to turn over in bed without 2 people moving your body for you, and you'll be screaming to be turned about
every 20 minutes (which rarely happens). After that, it's weeks to months of merely mind-numbing pain, with peaks of jaw-breaking pain when you go to rehab. Your chances of getting any pain relief at all depend greatly on how much you put into the rehab. The surgery will stabilize that area of the spine that was worked on, but you have to build up your muscles to take the strain off the bones. If there is any way you can exercise in a pool - do it! Water takes a whole lot of gravity off your body, and it also takes away a whole lot of the pain. It comes back as soon as you get out, but at least for a while it's genuine relief.
Honestly, I wouldn't look for significant relief for 6 months to a year after surgery. That all depends on how fit you are going into surgery, and how dedicated you are to rehab afterward. As other people have already brought up, I hope you've had a long talk with your doctor about
how quickly this degeneration is going. You won't have any neck mobility at all with your entire c-spine fused, so unless you're already stiff as a board, it won't make any difference. You've got a really tough decision to make, so please take the time for a 2nd opinion. Best of luck whatever you decide.
Living in the Republic of Texas minus a gallbladder, a couple of cervical discs, appendix, uterus, and 18" of colon; but still alive and living with my husband, 2 dogs, 1 cockatiel, 1 quaker parrot and 2 gold fish.